Richards Bay and Empangeni are the most significant economic centre’s in local municipality and in the district municipality as well. Richards Bay, as harbor and industrial town, attracts people from surrounding towns, rural settlements and from beyond the district. Empangeni’s role as an industrial, commercial and service centre to the settlements of esikhaleni, Eshone, Nkandla, Ntambanana and other rural settlements attracts many people to the range of higher order services available in town.
The vast majority of economic performance in the district is vested in uMhlathuze Local Municipality, notably in Richards Bay and Empangeni. This area is third most important in the province of KwaZulu-Natal in terms of economic production (GGP) and total employment.
There are a number of natural and man0made phenomenon that have shaped and continue to shape the uMhlathuze Municipality. The area is inundated with a system of wetlands and natural water features such as lakes cubhu, Mzingazi, Nsezi and Nhlabane. Major rivers include the Mhlathuze and Nsezi.
The main access into the municipal area is via N2 in a north south direction and in an east west direction the R34 from Ntambanana. Other significant roads in the area include the MR431 (that provides a northerly entry into Richards Bay from the N2) as well as the Old main Road that straddles the N2 on its inland.